Monday, July 26, 2010

Kirby Super Star Ultra (DS) Review

1995-2008 HAL Laboratory/Nintendo

I love the Kirby series of games. They're very fun to play, for many reasons. This is one of those games. Despite the original Kirby Super Star (or Kirby's Fun Pak in Europe) being released very late on the Super Nintendo's lifespan, it's still highly lauded and praised by many gamers. I actually played the original back when me and my family escaped from Hurricane Rita for a week at my mother's friend's house back in 2005, and I thought it was good from what I've played. Unfortunately, I only played a tiny bit of it, because I was highly addicted to Kirby's Dream Course back then. Three years later, when I heard that Kirby Super Star was gonna be remade for the DS, I was excited, because I was gonna get a second chance to play the game. Only, this time, it provided what was in the original, and more.

So, what's the deal with Kirby Super Star [Ultra], you may ask? Well, it's got many mini-games in one package. They mainly star Kirby, a rotund pink puffball, who goes on many adventures in these mini-games; whether it be to recuperate all the stolen food from King DeDeDe so the inhabitants of Dream Land won't starve, or to collect the lost treasures in a maze-like cavern, or to try to save an entire galaxy, to name a few. There's variety in the plot when it comes to these many mini-games. In some of these mini-games, there are moments when the plot will thicken to a certain extent. Of course, there are also sub-games, where you try to outdo your opponent(s). The endings when it comes to these games are well-done and composed.

The gameplay is one of Kirby Super Star [Ultra]'s high points. If you haven't played a Kirby game before, here's how it works: you control Kirby with the D-Pad, to make him run double tap either the left or right buttons. He can jump, float, slide, swim, and shield himself (by holding either the L or R shoulder buttons; the only game in the series that allows you to do that). Not only that, but he can inhale his enemies. If he inhales an enemy with an ability, Kirby will copy said enemy's ability. Say, for example, he were to swallow Waddle Doo, then Kirby would now possess the Beam ability. But the best part of it all is, if Kirby still possessed the enemy's ability and you press the X button, then said enemy will become Kirby's ally, controlled by either a computer or a human player. It's really cool, and it's not often that you see a game of its kind that allows you this opportunity. The myriad of abilities you learn will have many different type of attacks. There are also a few rare, one-use power-ups that will make quick work of all enemies onscreen. The Maxima Tomatos restore all your health, while the bottle or other foods restore a tiny bit of it. If you're playing with an ally, and find food, you will share it with him when you get too ... close. Throughout the mini-games you will face mini-bosses and bosses, and the quickest way to deal them in is if you've got an ability learned and/or an ally by your side. Some mini-games require usage of the stylus for the bottom screen, and a few sub-games require nothing but stylus action. One of the sub-games' objective is to shoot rubber darts at many oncoming cardboard enemies as you can (by touching them with your stylus) before time runs out.

Jun Ishikawa and Hirokazo Ando are well-known for composing the games' soundtracks with their own style of recognizable quality, as well as Arcana (a very underrated and overlooked first-person RPG for the SNES), and this soundtrack is one of their best works. The songs themselves are nice and catchy, and they fit well with the atmosphere. This is where the famous Gourmet Race theme originated from, and has been recycled over to other games (including Kirby's Dream Land 3 and Super Smash Bros.). I'll never forget the first time I heard the main Great Cave Offensive theme, which rocks. The boss theme against Meta Knight and Marx are epic. The ending songs are amazing, and some of them are the best songs in the game. A few songs were remixed from Kirby's Dream Land and Kirby's Adventure, and they sound well. The sound effects are decent; I like the sound of Kirby trying to inhale enemies, and the sound of Kirby riding a Warp Star, and the sound of Kirby using his Ice ability.

The graphics are pleasing to the eyes. The foregrounds and the backgrounds are nicely drawn, and there are times when they will impress. Even though there's barely any parallax scrolling or color-layering effects, the visuals are still nice; there is even a tiny bit of Mode 7. There's so much variety in the environments. The characters' animations are smooth, and nicely detailed. If Kirby has the Ice ability when he runs, he'll look like he's skating on ice, which is cool. Kirby dons different types of hats or helmets depending on what ability he'll possess, which is sweet. The boss designs are well-conceived, and the stage designs are good. The DS remake has 3D-rendered cutscenes, which are all great. The only problem I have with the cutscenes is that they look like they're recorded in VHS quality (they look a little blurry at times). All character designs are cool; so cool, that I've made a few pixel arts based on them:

The Kirby series of games usually are easy types of games, and this game is no exception. However, HAL Laboratory decided to implement a tiny bit of challenge at certain moments. The mini-games all vary in difficulty. For example, Spring Breeze is a very easy mini-game, while The Revenge of Meta Knight pumps the difficulty up a few notches. But, I like the game series' progressively easy difficulty. There are a few mini-games where you have to take down as many bosses as you can without losing a life, which will test your skills. And if you succeed in undertaking those tasks, you'll receive a very rewarding reward. Some bosses are harder than others; Marx Soul is the hardest boss in the game. I like trying to finish the mini-games as fast as I can and try to master many of them in only one life. The mini-games are fun to play and replay because of the variety of them all.

Kirby Super Star [Ultra] is a game that is famous for many reasons. One of the reasons because it's comprised of many games, another being the fact that you could make your enemies become your allies, and one other for the fact that those aforementioned details (and so much more) is what gives the game its charm and originality. The soundtrack and visuals are very nice, and the gameplay is very topnotch. It may be not be overly difficult, but that's not really a bad thing. The more you beat the mini-games for the first time, the gradually you unlock new ones. And, if you manage to beat all of them, you will get a perfect 100% status. The DS remake included new mini-games, like one where you can take control as Meta Knight or try to defeat thirteen bosses as any of the twenty chosen helpers. Complete the Helper to Hero mini-game with all twenty characters, and you'll unlock an SNES-quality surprise. It's a really fun game, and the best out of the three Kirby games available on the DS. If you've never played a Kirby game, then this is a good first choice.


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